Combustible Celluloid
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With: Paulina Gaitan, Edgar Flores, Kristyan Ferrer, Tenoch Huerta Mejia, Diana Garcia, Luis Fernando Pena, Hector Jimenez
Written by: Cary Fukunaga
Directed by: Cary Fukunaga
MPAA Rating: R for violence, language and some sexual content
Language: Spanish, with English subtitles
Running Time: 96
Date: 01/18/2009

Sin Nombre (2009)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Gang Time

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

In the years following Pulp Fiction, moviegoers were subject to all manner of similar ripoffs and retreads. That fad has petered out, but it seems that world filmmakers are now trying to duplicate the success of another, not dissimilar movie: City of God (2003). These new movies feature young, sexy people in gangs, in bright, sunny, dusty, rural settings, usually on some other continent besides North America. Gavin Hood's awful Tsotsi (2005) nabbed an Oscar for successfully duplicating the formula, and now Cary Fukunaga's much better Sin Nombre looks to score rabid fans of its own. In it, a Honduran teenager, Sayra (Paulina Gaitan), is recently reunited with her father and hits the road for the long, dangerous trip to the U.S.A. Meanwhile, a young gangster in Mexico, Casper (Edgar Flores), has been charged with breaking in a young recruit, Smiley (Kristyan Ferrer); his task is to find and kill a rival gang member. But Casper often shirks his duties to meet with his sexy girlfriend, Martha (Diane Garcia), from whom he wishes to keep his gang life secret. The gang leader Lil' Mago (Tenoch Huerta Mejia) becomes suspicious, which leads to all kinds of trouble; Casper is forced to hit the road, and he winds up on the same train as Sayra and her family. Since Casper manages to save Sayra's life, she becomes attached to him and resolves to follow him. For a long time I was sure that the film could offer little that was new or fresh, but Sin Nombre eventually goes places I never expected, and along the way it throws in some astonishing details about gang life that I did not know. Moreover, Fukunaga (who was raised in Oakland, California lives in Brooklyn) uses natural-looking locations and non-professional actors like a pro.

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